The core components of a modern office workplace are mainly the device, its operating system including management, a productivity software suite and a collaboration solution. As of today we see three big players on that market with three different solutions and ecosystems:
- Apple including the iCloud
- Microsoft and Office 365
- Google and G-Suite
Although comparable and sometimes possible to combine, these three ecosystems come from totally different backgrounds which explains their feature set and focus.
What you must keep in mind when discussing the Apple solution is, that Apple is a hardware company. Everything on top is only to sell (more) hardware. This explains why Apple’s approach is still hardware centric instead of web centric. The Apple ecosystem contains three types of devices, the Mac on macOS as well as the iPad and iPhone on iOS. The main application of the iCloud is to provide a seamless user experience over all Apple devices. Even for collaboration the Apple approach is still very device centric, providing client software for most of their services – sometimes only for the Apple operating systems (for instance: Facetime).
Although Apple limits the use of its services to their own operating system and devices, the Apple platform is open to use other productivity and collaboration suites. Remember, Apple is a hardware company, it is not Apple’s aim to sell services. This is especially true for enterprise clients, Apple actually does not want large corporations to use iCloud services, as they are considered consumer oriented. There is no iCloud for Business option available. It seems that Apple is not willing to invest in their services to reach an enterprise grade service level. Apple even removed the option to login to macOS with iCloud credentials in fear to be responsible if millions of users cannot log in to their devices should their iCloud service fail.
As we all know, Microsoft is originally a software company. They expanded to services only recently. And their hardware efforts are more to provide a reference model what can be done with their software and services. Their new CEO recognized that the future of software sales is in the cloud on a subscription base rather than on premise installations based on perpetual licenses. Although their efforts to position Office 365 as the center of their ecosystem looks promising, their legacy of clients with on premise instances of Microsoft software is still evident. The Microsoft solutions works best with Windows 10 and locally installed Microsoft Office as complementary components to the Office 365 cloud services.
Microsoft understood that the general ecosystem is more important than the platform. This is reflected in the recent reorganizations of the Microsoft divisions, where Windows is now part of the Cloud organization and not a business unit on its own any more. Microsoft’s cloud services can now be consumed on any platform, be it Windows 10, iOS, macOS or Linux. Not with complete feature parity, tough.
In contrast to Apple, Microsoft’s most important target client group are enterprises. Due to Microsoft’s strong background in the enterprise business, Office 365 and its underlying Azure infrastructure are designed with enterprise requirements in mind.
Google on the other hand is a natural service company, born on the Internet. The only function of Google’s hard- and software is to bring more users on their services. Therefore it is not very surprising that all Google services are web based and can be consumed by any device. To guarantee a certain consistent user experience over all platforms, Google provides its Chrome Browser as the interface for their services. Google is strong in the consumer and education business, but still weak in the enterprise area. Especially in Europe data protection is an important topic and seems not to be addressed properly by Google.
Three ecosystems that come from three totally different roots but have the same goal. Apple, a hardware company, providing software and services as additional value for its hardware. Microsoft, a software company that requires the service business for further growth and Google, a service company that provides hardware just to enable the consumers to use its services. Keeping the business models of these providers in mind explains their focus and strategy.